Holed up in a hotel near Amsterdam docks, and deterred from venturing into the city in the evenings by wind, wet, cold and dark, I've been passing the time reading Andrew Duncan's 'The Council of Heresy'. A book about difficult modern poetry which makes you laugh out loud - intentionally - can't be bad. Duncan is a dazzling writer, so much so, that I find myself questioning whether I'm being taken in, and his ideas are spurious: I don't think they are, it's just that I'm not used to literary criticism being entertaining. Maybe I should just relax and enjoy it.
I've just read a section called 'Games of the Gifted: Cryptic Canons' in which reading Tom Raworth and Allen Fisher is equated with the mental games that gifted children play when bored in the classroom: "It's arguable that the withdrawal from the High Street poetry scene is a re-enactment of the withdrawal of a seven-year-old child from the classroom into a private world full of games and protected by dissociation".
Duncan also discusses the fear of boredom as a powerful force first encountered in childhood: "...if intelligent people have a paranoid fear of reading Tony Harrison, it's not to do with social conflict, it's just because they're frightened of being bored", though he points out later that "many people are bored by avant-garde poetry too".
There's a chapter later in the book (I'm only part-way through) entitled "The Avant-Garde and East European Cults". I can't imagine how that'll pan out, but can't wait to read it. Cracking stuff, highly recommended.